Apologies for the singular update this week. Here’s a quick Fila-centric filler piece. This commercial from 1997 (when those Grant Hill and Jerry Stackhouse endorsements had the brand up there as a contender rather than a heritage line) for the then popular Just For Feet chain (which had expanded significantly at that moment in time) with its “Where Your 13th Pair is Free!” promotion. By 2004, Just For Feet was no more and Fila was largely out of action as a premium brand, but at least we’ve got this alliteration riddled promo piece uploaded by Tuck Watts — “FIND FANTASTIC FINER FILA FOOTWEAR FOR FAR FEWER FUNDS”
My friend Nick Santora has far greater fixation with sports footwear related imagery and ephemera than me. He runs the Classic Kicks site, social accounts and podcast and used to run the fine NYC store of the same name. He just made the plunge into publishing, but is keeping it as pixels for the time being. That doesn’t stop the visually inclined, 124 page Classic Kicks #1 from being designed as if it was on paper, down to the quality of design and page size. The inaugural issue has a ton of content (that’s content in the good sense as opposed to the gushing stream of content for content’s sake that is making anything useful harder to find using Google). If you’re a nerd, you’ll mess with this project — the old adidas and Fila ads are worth the price of admission, but the chats with Nike ad gods Chuck Kuhn, Bob Peterson and Bill Sumner with accompanying reproductions of some of their work, while — most importantly if you’ve followed this blog for any length of time — renaissance man and reggae archivist Roger Steffens shuts down that rumour that Nike’s mysterious Rasta Man samples were made for Bob Marley. Deeper than the usual shoe coverage and it’s best viewed on a tablet, though I would spend big on a physical copy. Well worth your £2.99 or digital subscription fee.
To some, Sigue Sigue Sputnik were one of those press-inflated flops of the 1980s, billed as the new thing — a glam sci-fi band with a loose dystopian dress code and apocalyptic Droog-like art direction, but incapable of maintaining the momentum of their Giorgio Moroder produced breakthrough. I think they were one of the great acts of that moment — a post Generation X creation who made a record that defines its era and maintained a mystique that had me fascinated. The sense of swindle and piss-taking that pervaded their work had some serious marketing dollars behind it. That promo extended to a 1986 MTV takeover called Sputnik Network Television that user result has upped onto YouTube. Presented by Tony James, who introduces Peter Gabriel videos, interviews shadowy record execs and Jennifer Gray, quizzes a spaniel and takes phone calls a young Futura 2000 is art guest, painting throughout in bike courier attire. Lenny gets a lot of screen time, mentioning his Fila boycott, but citing the brand as, “Sort of a street Gucci of 1986,” and expressing embarrassment at his Clash-produced solo single. A fantastic time capsule of its era that — as Lenny’s mention of his t-shirt line indicates — sows the seeds for plenty of interesting things that followed.
I’m fascinated by how some prices stay static — or, in some cases, are less than they were 30 years ago — while some have hyper inflated beyond the relative value of the pound or dollar. I’ve seen reissued adidas shoes with an RRP of less than they were in sports shops 25 years ago and I’ve seen Air Jordans from 1988 and 1989 with a 2016 price tag that’s more in line with inflation (the Air Jordan V was 90 pounds in 1990, which is the equivalent of roughly 200 pounds now), but the quality of materials – despite some romanticism regarding quality the first time around on some things — and disorienting dip from less than original RRP around 2006 on some retro releases to twice the amount a decade later, throws logic to the wayside. Since Fila got sold into multiple licensing deals, its early prestige was sullied. In 1984, the brand’s velour warm-up suits were selling at 268 dollars — over 600 dollars in today’s money. Now they can be bought for under 150 if you’re looking to dress like Roger Moore in A View to a Kill. Of course, the manufacturing wouldn’t come close to the Italian brand’s heyday, but any example of inflation reverse on that scale should dead any premium expectations.
Completely unrelated, but well worth watching, the conversation below is worth an hour of your time. As part of Harmony Korine’s Shadows and Loops show at his birthplace of Nashville’s Frist Center for the Visual Arts, he chatted with curator Mark Scala. There’s some cryptic laughter during the proceedings (and you’ll have to guess what the audience’s questions were from the answers), but, as with some lucid podcast interviews of late, there’s some good Korine trivia, like an account of his short-lived graffiti career. Part of me wants his shelved project Fight Harm to see the light of day, while the other part just wants to imagine how amazing it is.
Streetwear loves Wu-Tang. Over the last decade there have been tributes of varying quality that rarely come close to what Oli “Power” Grant and the crew did do help redefine rap merch with Wu Wear—complete with no less than four physical stores—as much as they did the hip-hop record deal. Wu Wear was pretty much played by the time it hit Virgin Megastores to coincide with Wu-Tang Forever, but that I hold it in similar status to a slew of pioneering black-owned brands of the era rather than mere tie-in is a testament to the Wu brand’s clout. These are hyper referential times and every cultish nook and cranny of rap culture has been cleared out and beamed into a broader spectrum. C.R.E.A.M. branded dairy products or a Liquid Swords washing up liquid complete with the ‘W’ logo wouldn’t surprise me right now, and that 1992 snowboarding pullover that Rae rocked is being rinsed. It’s the reappropriation of memories of one of the greatest reappropriated style moments ever. It might be considered quite meta in one way or another. It’s well documented—and I’ve probably upped at least 10 Wu-centric posts here before—that, in their day, the Wu-Tang were style kings who rolled en masse before the dissent kicked in. They were innately fly. In a world where collaborations are an increasingly tiresome currency and many rappers dress in various levels of shitty (awkward in leather, Karmaloop gift voucher, or 1998 called—it wants its denim back), it’s something of a lost art.
King collector DJ Greg Street is a man who seems to own everything, and a week or so ago, he made the video above where he showed Raekwon an array of merchandise from over the years. It’s entertaining stuff, but two things stand out—Rae seems completely unaware that most of this gear ever existed, and the man can fold a tee like a pro. Does he have a retail background*, an obsessive compulsive approach to his gear, or is this a habit borne of constant touring? The man could be working in Supreme with this commitment to keeping a shirt in order.
*Big up Ross Turner for noting that it’s a packing fold rather than a retail fold.
If you wanted to see bad iPhone images of book pages then you came to the right place my friend. I couldn’t be bothered to hunt anything new/old down tonight and because it’s nearly Christmas, books seemed relevant.
Joe Mansfield’s Beat Box: A Drum Machine Obsession didn’t disappoint — rather than trying to play completist, it picks the most interesting pieces of Mansfield’s collection and delves from there. The scattering of essays and interviews makes it a richer read, but those ads, old logos, typefaces and mentions of significant records made on each machine are an education alone. I never knew what a BOSS Dr. Rhythm DR-55 was until I picked up this book, but now I hear it all the damn time when I’m in new wave mode on iTunes. I’m looking forward to seeing what Get On Down publications puts out next — niche subjects presented perfectly are the stuff essential books are made of.
I know the Schott — 100 Years of an American Original book came out earlier this year, but I only got round to getting my hands on it. Anything Rin Tanaka is always worth hunting down, even if it always involves a hapless — and oft fruitless — bargain hunt to find it at a normal price. This is top five brand endorsed retrospectives of all time. A lot more brand would benefit from getting Tanaka to delve through his/their archives, but most don’t have the legacy of the Schott Perfecto. If you go around poking at your peers jackets and pretending that you know what you’re talking about, then you need this. The gallery of celebrity Perfecto wearers at the close of the book is a reminder that Schott’s period as a vaguely pricey nylon shelled jacket of desire for kids followed by a stint served on TK Maxx shelves was an unfair representation of the brand.
adidas’ 10 Years of Y-3 is one of those books that could have been phenomenal but ended up decent — with Yamamoto’s role with adidas looking like it’s deeper than ever and given his personal perspective is always deeper than the majority of other designers when they’re on the mic, the lack of dialogue from him was initially disappointing, but on a purely visual perspective, it’s proof of what happens when someone who can actually design gets free rein at a sports brand and there’s plenty of imagery of the shows going back to the beginning. Bar some comments from celebrity admirers and peers at the rear, it’s virtually wordless, but after the initial deflation, I have to concede that it suits the line’s approach. One day, everyone will look beyond the expensive slimline shoes that blokes used to wear with Armani denim round my way and concede that Y-3 was very influential indeed.
To conclude, here’s a picture of Stevie Wonder wearing a Fila tracksuit top, possibly during a British leg of the promo tour for Songs in the Key of Life. Even without sight, Stevie knew what time it was.
British skaters are getting it bad this week from the press. The week started with the usually likeable Billy Bragg defending the Southbank against those pesky kids and turning it into a class war (and getting himself thrown out of Slam City Skates for causing a scene) situation as part of the Southbank Centre’s decision to win a debate by rolling out people who incite you to flick to QVC when the crop up on the BBC’s Glastonbury coverage. To end it, the Evening Standard‘s ES magazine unleashed its own awkward take on skate chic, with puns in the header and a miserable looking model awkwardly clad in high-end and low-end cluelessness. A mall grab would have been the perfect finishing touch, because fake skater is very in right now — I haven’t seen these levels of grommet fashion section infiltration since the 1980s. This is the outfit that an undercover cop might sport to bust a skatepark weed dealer. Don’t be surprised if Julian Lloyd-Webber disguises himself in it for the next round of Southbank/skater skirmishes.
You can actually unsee the outfit above by spending some time reading this excellent Red Bull Music Academy piece on the Zoo York Mixtape and checking out the FWDMTN/Forward Motion auctions for Heart Research UK in memory of king of the North-East, Steve ‘Bingo’ Binks. If, like me, you eat off skate culture, but you don’t want to come off like the Evening Standard’s idea of a skater, then you owe it to yourself to click here or on the image to see the auctions, where there’s some Nike SB hype, Vans Syndicate rarities, signed reissue decks and some Supreme goodness to bid on. Salutes to all who put this together and contributed. This kind of thing is what pointless polemic in a broadsheet will always omit — skateboarding is one of the few activities where everybody knows somebody who knows somebody and in that can be used to raise some money for a good cause. R.I.P. Bingo and Bod.
Why is the Slam City affiliated Holmes brand that Russell Waterman, Sofia Prantera, Ben Sansbury and James Jarvis brought to life pre-Silas pretty much excluded from the internet? Looking for some of the old Jarvis Holmes catalogue reminded me of how much better the now defunct Select magazine’s Greed section was in showcasing gear that Slam City stocked. Back in summer 1994, this spread had me scheming ways to get hold of this shirt.
This guy’s 1989-era multiple brand bootleg sweatshirt is a crime against authenticity, but it’s so blasphemous that it reminds me of a happy time when Fila and Troop were way out your price range and this kind of thing was peddled in some fly-by-night retailers. The do-it-yourself pirate collaboration to end them all got phased out beyond holiday resorts eventually, but the brand gang bang prints went harder than most of the contemporary apparel from sportswear brands.